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Wednesday, October 20, 1999 Published at 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK

World: Africa

Angolan Government confirms Bailundo victory

The outbreak of fighting has caused a humanitarian crisis (all pictures UCAH/Giovani Diffidenti)

Almost three weeks after first reports of fighting, the Angolan Government has confirmed that it has seized two strongholds of Unita rebels in the centre of the country.

"Bailundo and Andulo are in the hands of our forces, the police and the army, as part of our efforts to restore the authority of the state," said a statement read on official radio.

It was not clear exactly when the two towns changed hands, though a state television journalist reported that Andulo had fallen last Saturday and Bailundo almost a month ago.

Last month the government launched a major offensive against Unita on several fronts but revealed no details of its operations.

On 28 September an Angolan general said Bailundo had been captured and that the army had the situation under control.

Symbolic victory

The government did not confirm this and there was speculation that it was wary of appearing triumphalist and wanted to consolidate its gains before announcing victory.

[ image: Many Angolans believe the world has forgotten their plight]
Many Angolans believe the world has forgotten their plight
Independent military analysts have suggested that as Unita has already moved its military equipment out of the town, its fall is largely a symbolic rather than strategic victory.

Unita refused to concede defeat in Bailundo last month but admitted the town had been virtually destroyed. It said Angolan forces had used napalm and phosphorous bombs.

The statement issued by the government on Wednesday also said Angolan troops had taken Kalandula and Kalussengue in Malanje province, Londuimable in Huambo province, Cangamba, Luwawu, Luakanu and Lumbalanguimbi in Moxico province and Mussende and Tembwe in Cuanza-Sul province.

All these areas were "under the effective control of the forces of defence and national security" said the statement.

The government went back to war with the rebels last December, following the collapse of a 1994 peace agreement aimed at ending more than two decades of fighting.

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